Rechnitz – The Angel of Death

Slovak National Theatre – Drama, Bratislava, 2013
Author: Elfriede Jelinek
Directed by David Jařab

about the production

The production of the play by Elfriede Jelinek, a Nobel Prize winner, significantly stands out from the average Slovak theatrical production, however satisfyingly dampered. In one of the interviews about this play the playwright mentioned several sources of inspiration but, in particular, motivation which intrinsically anticipates certain processes. On the one hand, there is fascination with a historical event – a monstrous mass murder from the end of the second world war (she got acquainted with it in the document by Margaretha Heinrich and Eduard Erne and later in the book about the well-known family of the Thyssens – one of its members had been involved in this massacre), an effort to report on this event and search for the roots of evil in man. On the other one, there is a strange apathy and resignation when considering the possibility to change this basic characteristic in man. A characteristic which from the deeply “subjective” demon penetrates up to the matters of politics and the use of power by the state, whereby it is moved into the area of absolute impunity.

David Jařab, a distinctive personality of the Czech theatre direction, shaping one of the most avant-garde Czech theatre houses of recent years – The Comedy Theatre Prague, has determined the form of the production, which, on one side, fully respects the inability of dramatical grasping of the text itself, on the other side, and, at the same time in the spirit of one of Elfriede Jelinek‘ further inspirations (L. Buñuel’s film – The Exterminating Angel ), brings a parallel world onto the stage which perfectly materialises the orgiastic ambience of

a perverse party ending up with the death of one hundred eighty Jews. The tension between these two “parties” creates unexpected links and surprising contrasts on the border of the emotional carrying capacity. However, it is a way how to achieve an unambiguous effect. He lets the essence of the horror itself and the monstrosity of the committed crime work. The reference to the film by Luis Buñuel is not, in any way, accidental. However, the author’s (and the production team’s) provocation is aimed deeper than just the social criticism of hypocracy and perverse morality of people from the top social classes. The Nazi Bacchanalias at Countess Batthyány chateau are thus transformed into a metaphor of extreme possibilities of deeds by anyone of us. To have the power to decide life and death is transported from the level of politics to the level where someone else’s death ceases to be an offence. Indeed, so far are we able to go and at the moment of awakening do not even repent. Indeed, to purge ourselves and get rid of the feeling of guilt, it suffices to kill all witnesses of our crime.

David Jařab cast prominent actors of the Drama Theatre of the Slovak National Theatre into his version of the play and they humbly walk the untreaden trail of horror, with a lightness that makes one shiver. It makes one shiver just because what is so frightening with such a shocking crime is that there seems to be no feeling of guilt, not even for a moment. On the contrary, the guilt is ridiculed, played down, turned into just a word without any value, assigned for history textbooks. By casting doubts on the essence of the guilt, the word “guilt” itself is being emptied.

The production by the Drama Theatre of the Slovak National Theatre provokes demons within us. Although it deals with guilt materialised in the representatives of the Nazi regime, it does not make us free by this fact in any way, however much it might have looked in the first couple of minutes of the show. Very soon a more intensive feeling comes. Would I, indeed, be able not to act like them, if I possessed guaranteed power and impunity in any form of its implementation? Mind you, on a smaller scale, we are witnessing similar deeds even today, even in our closest environment. Shameless impunity. And an arrogant smile on the lips of the guilty.
Peter Pavlac


“Jelinek is not offering a classical play; it is rather a poem in prose. The Nobel prize-winner is not very keen on realistic scenes or, in fact, characters. Then the staging team has to explain everything itself in its own way, which was something that absolutely suited the director David Jařab.

One had to wait for the National Theatre, in cooperation with the visiting Czech artists, to show a sufficiently powerful creative potential and create a drama piece which can easily be confronted also in the international context. It is one of the most powerful productions which appeared in the outgoing season.”
Zuzana Uličianska, SME, 10 June 2013

“The production of Rechnitz – the Angel of Death belongs to the most interesting but, at the same time, the most complicated that the present repertoire of the Slovak National Theatre offers. The viewers are in for a disturbing experience opening many questions and offering no advice, answer or apology. Mind you, neither the Rechnitz mass murder victims received them.”
Soňa Smolkova, PRAVDA, 12 June 2013




directed by David Jařab
translation: Peter Lomnický
dramaturgy: Martin Kubran
dramaturgic co-operation: Gabriel Tóth
set design: David Jařab
costumes: Sylva Zimula Hanáková
music: Petr Haas
musical preparation: Vladislav Šarišský
cast: Emília Vášáryová, Szidi Tobias, Zuzana Porubjaková, Richard Stanke, Gabriel Tóth, Peter Brajerčík, Ivana Kuxová, František Kovár, Alexandra Palatínusová, Daniel Herich, Ján Vajčovec, Miroslav Vilhan, Peter Žaškovský


David Jařab (1971) graduated from theatre direction at the Drama Faculty of Janáček‘s Academy of Performing Arts in Brno with  Professor Arnošt Goldflam. Having graduated he obtained a stipend to study arts at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart.

Between 1993 and 1998 he was active as a director, later as a member of the management team and the artistic director of the well known independent HaTheatre in Brno. He has left a distinctive trace on the Czech theatre map as an artistic director, author, director and stage designer of the Prague Chamber Theatre which performed in the Comedy Theatre in the years 2002 – 2012. Together with Dušan David Pařízek he managed to create a respected trade mark from the Comedy Theatre within the period of ten years. They created a theatre with original poetics, progressive dramaturgy and an ensemble of strong actors‘ personalities. He is also active in film and teaching. For his work he has obtained several important awards and his productions are regularly performed at the festival Divadelná Nitra.


Materials available

Video of the production: no
Script of the production: EN

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